Nova Scotia legislative committee unable to get cost estimate for hospital project

HALIFAX — The official cost estimate for one of Atlantic Canada’s biggest infrastructure projects remains under wraps, as officials told a Nova Scotia legislative committee on Wednesday they could not provide a figure.

The Halifax Infirmary redevelopment was valued at $2 billion when the project, which will be largely funded by a public-private partnership, was first announced by the former Liberal government in 2018.

However, in June the province said the cost was likely much higher due to inflation. Coinciding with this admission was the withdrawal of construction company EllisDon from the bidding process due to “unprecedented cost escalation” and supply chain and productivity issues affecting the industry. construction.

Gerard Jessome, an official with the provincial department of public works, told the public accounts committee that the cost of the project is proprietary information belonging to the sole remaining bidder, the Plenary PCL Health Consortium.

“The province remains committed to the procurement process and has moved forward with the remaining bidder,” said Jessome, who added that Plenary PCL Health is expected to submit its estimate Oct. 27.

« Once we have reviewed the submission, completed negotiations and financially closed the project, we will provide an update. »

Karen Oldfield, CEO of the Nova Scotia Health Authority, also hijacked several attempts by Liberal and New Democrat committee members to get information on the potential cost of the project.

Oldfield said providing an estimate now would amount to a « shot in the dark ».

“Over time the numbers will be hard numbers, they will be known,” she said. « There is nothing sinister happening here, we are in a procurement process. »

Oldfield also told the committee that she was concerned about the rising costs of upgrading the Victoria General Hospital, which will eventually be replaced by the expanded Halifax Infirmary. Oldfield did not give details but said work was needed to extend the life of the Victoria General, which houses 16 operating rooms.

The hospital has had ongoing water issues and recently struggled with faulty air conditioning – things Oldfield said she wanted to « fix in the meantime ».

Another looming issue is the size of the hospital redevelopment, given the province’s growing population since the project was first mooted in 2015.

Oldfield said she could not rule out that another building would need to be added to the project to ensure there were enough beds. « The current supply will only solve part of the (population) problem, » she said.

Dr. Alex Mitchell, the health authority’s vice president of clinical infrastructure, said Nova Scotia’s population is expected to grow by 11 per cent between 2021 and 2043, according to census and Treasury Board data. .

« There is an ongoing need to continue to review our infrastructure and services and…act as quickly as possible to adapt to changing conditions, » Mitchell said.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on October 5, 2022.


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